“Who knows how long of a trip” Planning for backpacking

When people finish high school and decide to take a leap for a gap year, a lot of these young adults chose to go backpacking. Well, now I did not. I did decide to take a gap year, or more like five/six, but I never went backpacking. Instead, I went off to work in different countries, which was also amazing, fantastic, challenging and the best decision ever, for me. But backpacking is something I have also always wanted to do.

Before I did my research, I thought about backpacking as something you did in your late teens or early twenties and had almost settled with the thought that it would be ok to miss out of experiencing that. But after my cousin did a very inspiring around the world tour in her early thirties I started looking into it and oh how wrong I had been.

I obviously knew that there is not an actual age limit for it. What I did not know though was that there were so many backpackers in their late twenties or thirties. Backpacking is for everyone, whatever age you are. As we speak I am sitting next to two ladies in their fifties, at this hostel in Cartagena, who are backpacking for a shorter while. How cool is not that now?

When my plans of backpacking through South America started to become more of a reality than just a thought, dream and idea, it was time to choose where to start. And start planning for backpacking!

My 21 year old me during my first encounter with South America.

My previous thought was divided into two choices, to start in either in Brazil and work my way down to Argentina and Chile before heading upwards. Or to start in Santiago or Buenos Aires. But since I was planning to leave around the beginning of September I quickly realized that it was the wrong end to start at this time a year due to the climate being colder in some of those areas then.

I knew from before that flying into Quito in Ecuador was an affordable and probably a smart choice since there are lots of flights going there too. But it did not seem right to start there either since I for sure wanted to visit Colombia.

I started thinking of a new plan to start with Central America, but the climate is not the best there during the (European) summertime either. I am not saying you should not travel there at this time, as long as you are prepared that it will rain more.

And I also had one thing that I had to plan a bit around, my nr 1 must do, which was The Inca Trail in Peru. It has been a dream for me to hike to Machu Picchu since I was around 15 and since the trail is closed during February I had to make sure to be there before that.

As a last minute decision, I also decided to also visit the ABC islands in the Caribbean. With other words island hopping through Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao. To go to the Caribbean sounded like a good, no wait, great idea! To enjoy some deluxe backpacking, or should I say “glampacking”, and just enjoy beaches, the ocean, diving and doing some work, before going onwards.

So, in the end, I chose to start with the ABC islands and then go to Colombia and work my way down the continent, to then fly from either Argentina or Brazil up to Central America. That will say if I will be able to go there. Keeping my fingers crossed and my wallet only half open.

This shot is from my first night on my first destination, Aruba. Taken by another solo traveler from Surinam.

I wanted to have as few timeframes to adapt to as possible and thereby my choice to not buy a return ticket. I talked quite a bit with a company called Kilroy. I had earlier won a voucher at one of their events that were specifically for backpacking in Latin America. With this voucher, I paid a part of my booking for the Inca trail and after talking to Kilroy I decided to also book a tour to Galapagos. I was very unsure of Galapagos at first because let’s be fair, it does sting a bit in the wallet. But I remembered how I felt when I could not go there during my work periods in Ecuador years ago. So I went for it.

There is also a place however called “Poor mans Galapagos” or “Galapagos for backpacker” if you do not find it worth spending that money going there and it is called Isla de la Plata.

It might sound like this idea popped up into my head a half year ago and that I just magically made it happen. But I have really been working hard to make this happen for a long time, behind the scenes. I have dreamt about exploring Latin America ever since I went to Spain as a little girl and started learning Spanish in school. When I applied for a job as a tour leader back in 2010 I searched for ways to get a job in one of these countries. After one winter season in Venezuela and Ecuador, I just knew I had to go back.

Ever since, I have been putting aside money in my travel account to save up for it, not only for that but with that in mind. Over the years I have gotten other opportunities, to see and explore other places too, and sometimes thought to myself that I might have to postpone this until I am way older. Furthermore, since I have never been able to let the dream go I just felt like I had to take the chance to go now when my life allows it on all levels at the moment.

This is where I was in between my back office job & my trip. Doing some freelancing while enjoying the Swedish summer.

I am about six weeks into my trip and in a few days, my travel companion (who I have yet to meet in real life) will arrive in Cartagena and we will continue a journey together for about eight weeks before I turn solo again. It has been nice traveling solo and I have not really been alone that much anyway. As a solo traveler, you meet so many other people from all over the world, especially staying in hostels. I think that this combination of traveling both by myself and with someone fits me well.

I lost count of the number of times people have asked me how long I will be gone for and when I will go or come back to Sweden. The simple answer to that is that I do not know. This trip started as and still is a “who knows how long of a trip”.

There are obviously a lot more practical things to deal with before leaving on a journey like this and I might write another article with more detailed info, tips & trick about that. So stay tuned!

@mk.elisabeth

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